Montreal

Quebec's highest court rejects PQ election-night shooter Richard Bain's sentence appeal

The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled Richard Bain will have to spend 20 years in prison before being allowed to apply for parole — upholding the original eligibility period initially imposed by Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer.

Bain, guilty of 2nd-degree murder, will have to serve 20 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole

In September 2016, Richard Bain was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years for the murder of stagehand Denis Blanchette. That sentence has been upheld by the Quebec Court of Appeal. (Radio-Canada)

The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled Richard Bain will have to spend 20 years in prison before being allowed to apply for parole — upholding the original eligibility period initially imposed by Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer.

Bain was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of stagehand Denis Blanchette at the Parti Québécois election-night victory rally in September 2012.  

In September 2016, Cournoyer sentenced Bain to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years.

Bain appealed, seeking to have his period of parole ineligibility reduced from 20 years to 10, while the Crown wanted to extend that period from 20 to 25 years.

Sentence not 'manifestly unfit'

Although the five judges who heard the appeal unanimously agreed to leave the period of parole ineligibility unchanged, they did not do so for the same reasons.

In their written ruling, justices Allan R. Hilton, Marie-Josée Hogue and Patrick Healy found that the 20-year period of parole ineligibility did not "deviate from the proper sentencing range," in light of the charge of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder for which Bain was convicted.

However, justices Nicole Duval Hesler and Jacques J. Levesque had different reasons for not changing the parole ineligibility.

They wrote the reasons for extending the period before someoe can apply for parole must have a "firm evidentiary foundation," ruling that the Crown had not made that case.

However, the two judges did not choose to shorten Bain's period of ineligibility for parole either.

Even though they found that Bain's sentence did not "on its face justify a period of parole ineligibility of more than fifteen years," the judges say they did not find the sentence "manifestly unfit," given the seriousness of the crimes.

They also noted that a provision in the Criminal Code allowing a person who has served at least 15 years of a sentence to apply for a reduction in the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole was not available to Bain.

That provision does not apply to murders committed after 2011.

Appeal Court shows sympathy for Bain

Despite the fact that the Court of Appeal did not reduce Bain's eligibility period, justices Hesler and Levesque did strike a somewhat sympathetic note toward the election-night shooter.

Their decision notes that the trial judge did not mention Bain's character and personal history.

"Here was an accused who had been a good citizen, regularly employed throughout his life," it said.

The ruling detailed how Bain had been prescribed a psychotropic drug for depression, leaving him with "clues of an underlying delusional system."

The judges said they found it disconcerting that there was no consideration given to Bain's prospects of rehabilitation.

Bain 'a sick man'

At a hearing before the Court of Appeal in October 2018, defence lawyer Alan Guttman argued that Bain is "a sick man."

"If they were to release him today, I don't think they'd have any problems with him," he said.

Crown prosecutor Maude Payette called Bain's crimes in 2012 "atrocious" and "horrible," arguing that he attacked the very essence of democracy.

"Richard Henry Bain committed one of the worst crimes in the history of this country," said Payette.

Guttman argued that Cournoyer ignored jurisprudence in the precedent-setting case involving Denis Lortie, the man who killed three government employees at the National Assembly in 1984.

Lortie was also found guilty of second-degree murder, and he was eligible for parole after 10 years.

"The cases are parallel. It's like a mirror," Guttman said.

About the Author

Elias Abboud

Journalist

Elias Abboud is a journalist at CBC Montreal.